There is great expectation among Cameroonians for a solution to its numerous conflicts, especially that orchestrating in the Anglophone regions as the United States Assistant Secretary of State in charge of African Affairs, Nagy Tibor, arrives the country on March 17th for a two-day official visit.
According to the State Department, Ambassador Tibor will be meeting with Cameroonian authorities to discuss security issues and the ongoing war in the two restive regions. This has pushed many Cameroonians to see the high level visit as part of the solution to the country’s unending conflict in two of its richest regions economically. While the government has been mum about the visit, it has been making the rounds in both the conventional and social media.
In the last two weeks, the U.S government and lawmakers have been very vocal about the prevailing situation in the two Anglophone regions in Cameroon, askeing their government to take firm measures. Just as he started his African tour on March 4th, Tibor, in an interview on the French international radio channel RFI , said the government of Cameroon should grant more autonomy to the Anglophone minority so that they can be able to manage their affairs by themselves. The diplomat also urged the government to release opposition leader, Professor Maurice Kamto and members and sympathizers of his party who were arrested on January 28 after organizing a peaceful march two days earlier.
He later on in another interview expressed his regrets over the happenings and stated that, “my heart breaks for Cameroon,” while promising to take the matter to the highest international instance. Moreover, on March 12th, the U.S government released a damaging human rights report on Cameroon detailing the excesses of the security forces as well as armed separatists in the two Anglophone regions and as Boko Haram militants in the North of the country among others. Prior to the publication of the report, the Chairman of the U.S House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Eliot Engel, prayed the Secretary to use his visit and challenge the decision of the Cameroonian authorities to incarcerate political opponents as well as its alleged human rights violations in the Anglophone North West and South West regions.
The government of Cameroon sleepless has on several occasions explained its policies, insisting the military has maintained a technique of “professionalism” in its mission to the Anglophone regions and the North. Communication Minister Rene Sadi also accused the U.S government of interfering in Cameroon’s internal affairs while stating that the opposition party members were arrested and charged for purely common law crimes and not politically motivated questions.
Since the advent of the conflict in the two English speaking regions, the U.S government has never taken such a firm stance. Moreover, it has also expressed so much interest in the arrests and incarceration of politicians recently. It is to be noted that Ambassador Tibor is no stranger to the politics and political players of Cameroon, having served as a diplomat in charge of Cameroonian affairs in the early 1990s.
The conflict in Anglophone regions of Cameroon began as a peaceful protest by lawyers and teachers in September 2016 and has since transformed into a war between government soldiers and armed separatists who are clamouring for the creation of a state for Anglophones called Ambazonia. The conflict has led to some of the worst human rights violations in the history of Africa with thousands being killed – some burnt alive in their houses – and reports of torture and disappearance. The United Nations has reported that the conflict has created more than 400,000 refugees and Internally Displaced Persons and about 2 million persons have been affected.
The situation in the country has been worsened by the arrest of opposition leader and Chairman of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, Maurice Kamto, who was the official runner-up in the October 7th, 2018 presidential election which saw incumbent Paul Biya being re-elected. However, Kamto and his peers argued that there were gross irregularities which is why they were protesting on January 26th. They also challenged the government to stop the war in the English speaking regions and call for dialogue.